Peanut sustainability begins with the positive characteristics of the peanut plant:
- Biomass-to-fruit ratio: There are two major benefits to a peanut plant’s size and structure. First is the way the peanut canopy grows. The outstretched vines create somewhat of a micro-climate that contributes to water conservation. Second, the plant weight relative to the yield means that it has a small amount of foliage, meaning it requires less water.
- Nitrogen Fixation: As a legume, peanuts form nodules on the roots of the plant, which allows for a mutually beneficial relationship to develop with soil bacteria (Rhizobia) to take nitrogen from the air (or in soil spaces) and automatically feed nitrogen into the plant . Therefore, peanuts don’t need any additional nitrogen to sustain them. This nitrogen fixation helps the soil by not depleting the available nitrogen and helps production costs by not requiring as much fertilizer.
- Root Depth: Peanuts are a deep rooting crop, with some roots growing more than six feet underground. The roots also grow crossways within the soil. This sturdy root system allows the peanut plant to better utilize water during droughts. The roots can grow deeper to find water and obtain nutrients from the soil.
- Unspecified Fruiting Pattern: Peanuts will continually put on new flowers which ultimately become new pegs or peanuts over time. In periods of dry weather, the peanut plant will pause fruiting. Once it rains, the plant will start flowering again and continue to bear fruit, which is especially beneficial for non-irrigated plots. For irrigated peanuts, this feature allows the plant to continue the fruit addition process through the onset of new flowers, which has the potential to significantly increase yield.
- Efficient Fertilizer Use: On most plants, farmers add phosphorus and potassium as fertilizer. But peanuts do not require a fertilizer because the root system is efficient at taking nutrients from the soil. In addition to the nitrogen fixing characteristics, this is a big benefit to soil conservation and sustainability.